Shadow Walkers Chapter #8

Dracula: not myth, nor ravings of a mad Irish novelist, oh no. He's real, I assure you. ~ Dr. Van Helsing/Dracula 2000

Her eyes widened at Michael's declaration. "Is that why he was trying to eat old Bear Buttcheeks?"

In the shadows Borias frowned. Bare Buttcheeks? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Bare Buttcheeks indeed!

More laughter bubbled up in Michael's throat, finally turning into peals of giggles. "Bare Buttcheeks? Oh Lassie, ye be like a breath of Spring after a long cold winter. Bare Buttcheeks is it? I have to remember that one. Caeoimhin and Faolán will eat that up."

The hellions would never let him live it down, is what he meant, Borias thought with a silent groan. And just what the hell did the wee, lavender eyed deamon know about a man's bare arse anyway? Had she seen that damned many in her lifetime? Was she that promiscuous? The thought was an unwelcome one that didn't sit well with him.

Cu Roi padded softly toward Michael and sat down, resting his head in Michael's lap. "Ye be young, Lassie. Just what do ye know about backsides anyway?"

"That I know asses when I see 'em," she answered flatly. "They're sneaky and their mouths over load their brains, causing the dreaded Hoof and Mouth Reflex. You know what that is right? That's when they open mouth and insert their foot all the way up to their kneecap. It can be as bad as Cranial-Rectal Inversion Syndrome."

"What be that?" Michael wanted to know. "It sounds turrible."

She casually glanced at the shadows and a tiny smile touched her lips. "It's when a guy gets his head stuck up his backside. Even as we speak, women of the world are out campaigning to raise funds to try and find a cure for it."

Borias wasn't expecting the answer he heard and he had to clench his teeth together, to keep from shouting at her, that he wasn't an arse. Nor was he expecting her to look at the exact spot when he was standing. If he didn't know better, he'd swear that she knew he was there. Well, he'd had enough insults for one night. He didn't need a wee trollop to berate him behind his back, Borias told himself when he slipped through the secret door in the wall, and shut it behind him.

Michael's voice was no more than a quiet whisper. "How did ye know, Lassie?"

"That the auld fart was there?" she sighed tiredly, sitting back down. "I felt him." When Michael gave her a curious tilt of his head, she returned it with a small shrug of her shoulders. "I don't know if I can explain it. It's just something I feel. I don't even know if there's even an explanation for it, if you want the truth."

Her next words caught in her throat and she froze, when Cu Roi shifted his attentions from his young charge, to unexpectedly lay his head in her lap. Swallowing hard, she forced herself to stay calm, before she once more raised her hand, this time letting her fingertips hover over the animal's head.

Michael's words were warm, encouraging. "What do ye feel, Lassie? Can ye tell me?"

"I feel...there's a, a tingling in my fingers if that makes sense. It's like a vibration that a cell phone makes, only a hundred times softer, you know? And it''s warm like..." She paused looking embarrassed.

"Tell me," he urged gently.

"It's love should be," she whispered, as if she were afraid she'd be heard. "Like the cuddles you see a kid get from his parents but...that's not all. Some of it's protective. There's a fierceness there, like it would fight for you...fight for the one it loved."

She pulled her hand out of reach then, causing Cu Roi to raise his head and look up at her. Seeing the opportunity present itself, she took it and stood up, placing distance between the animal and herself.

Michael didn't miss the tears shimmering just under the surface of her eyes, before she turned her back and faced the hearth. "Tis a rare gift ye have, wee Caitlain," he soothed. "One not many are fortunate to have. Faerie, elves and immortals are the only ones I know, that even possess it, but never a human."

She half flinched, half whimpered when Michael gently wrapped his arms around her from behind, holding her close. "It be alright to cry, ye know. There be no shame in that. The gift ye have, it be nothin' to be a'feared of and neither are we, elle seler'. In a way, it works like a built in defense to help keep ye safe. Sort of what like the four of us be doin' right now. If ye listen to it, it can even keep ye alive."

"What if you don't feel anything at all? Just...nothing," she sniffed, thinking of the last time she saw Andrew Golden. "Just sort of like a blank space, where somebody was supposed to be?"

The thought made Michael uneasy. "Lassie, if I ask ye something, will ye answer me true?" When she nodded, he slowly turned her around to look in her eyes. "This somebody ye spoke of, was it someone ye knew personally?" Another nod. "Twas no the two lassies ye spoke of was it or the two laddies?"

"No. He..."

"He?" Another nod. "Did this person, did ye ever see him durin' the day? Did he ever eat in front of ye? Drink anythin'?"

"No, but I worked nights so? What are you trying to ask me? If the Gap Toothed Troll was Count Dracula? Geeze. Give me a break, huh? He was the King of Jerks, but he wasn't no Romanian dressed up like a frigging penguin in a cape."

Michael heard the tremor of hysteria in her voice and wondered what she wasn't telling him. "Lassie, usually when ye encounter someone like ye described, there be a reason why ye dinna feel anything," he explained, gauging her reaction. "Most often tis a'cause they dinna have a soul."

Color slowly drained from her face. "What? You mean like dead?"

"Aye," he answered as gently as he could. Slipping his arm around her, he helped her back to the chair so she could sit down.

The Gap Toothed Troll? Dead? Shivering, Caitlain stared at the fire, her eyes wide when she absently reached up to rub the tiny scar, underneath her bottom lip. She didn't even notice when Michael laid a soft wool blanket over her shoulders.

She'd been working in inventory for the Metropolitan Museum when she met Andrew Golden a few months before her world had been turned upside down. He didn't really seem odd, she told Michael.

"Well, to be truthful, maybe he did a little. I chalked it up to the fact that, here I was with my homely mug hanging out and there he was, handsome as anything, and he had taken an interest in me. Boy did I get a wrong number, huh?"

"Lassie, ye are no homely by any means."

Caitlain ignored the remark, still staring into the fire. "One evening he met me outside the museum and walked me home. He was full of all kind of questions, about the shipment that was coming in a couple days. He seemed agitated about it, ya know, especially when I couldn't give him any details. I didn't really know any to tell the truth, and if I did, I'd have lost my job giving them out. He told me I was an idiot, because he said, a man in my position, would have at least had sense enough to answer simple questions."

"I just told him, some architect, I mean archaeologist found this artifact," she told him rubbing her eyes. "He dug this thing up over in Poland at some old ruins or other, and I said, if he'd read the paper like everybody else, he'd know that. That really pissed off the Gap Toothed Troll to no end. I guess he didn't like my attitude."

"Gap Toothed Troll, Lassie? What do ye mean by that?"

Caitlain looked over her shoulder making sure Borias, hadn't suddenly returned to the shadows. Satisfied she shrugged. "I gave him something to remember me by, after he shoved me up against the wall, outside of my apartment building. He told me, he was gonna show me what happened to women, where he came from that had a smart mouth."

Michael felt his stomach roll and knew she was lucky to be alive. He also knew, Borias was in the safe room listening to every word she said. "Can ye tell me what he did, elle seler'?"

"He shoved me against the wall and he..." Her bottom lip quivered. "He decided he was gonna play Suck Face with the homely idgit. Damned asswipe. I wound up with a split under my lip where one of his teeth nicked me, and the gap Toothed Troll? He wound up missing one or two of his teeth, when I punched him in the mouth. Lucky for me, a couple of my neighbors came out to see what was going on, cause it scared him off and I didn't see him after that."

Borias growled slamming his fist down on the desk making the monitor shake. "Dammit to hell! The fookin' son of a bitch marked her!" That meant one thing. If the strigoi had even tasted just a few drops of her blood, he could track her anywhere. Well let him come, Borias thought angrily. The bait was in place and the creature would no doubt find it now. After all, he told himself, that was why she was here wasn't it?

So who was the bigger monster in that case? The monster that hunted her, or the one that would be using her as bait? He didn't want to think of that right this minute. He just knew he had to be ready when the strigoi made an appearance. Because even if she was bait, he'd be damned if the thing ever laid another hand on her. He heard her whimper and he looked back at the monitor, watching as Michael knelt down in front of her, to take both her hands in his. This time she didn't pull away.

"It didn't look like much to me, but I was a beginner. What did I know, right? All I had to do was log it in, no matter what it looked like, and like I said, it didn't look like much. It was just an old broken piece of a plaque to me, with a face etched on it, that only a mother could love on payday. And let me tell you what, would have had to have been, one damned big payday in my book."

"The face was all distorted, gapin' jaws, a mouthful of pointy teeth. The curator said, it was evidence, that people believed a creature, had lived in that particular vicinity around 800 years ago. He said there was legend about some vampire prince, named Andrzej Aurel, he said. Legend my Aunt Addie's ass," she cried, as the tears trickled from her eyes. "That frigging legend came in through one of the air ducts, down into the basement where me and a half dozen more catalogers were working. Place looked like somebody took a blood bath the next morning..."

Michael frowned. "Andrzej Aurel, you said?" When she barely nodded, he frowned at a painting on the wall where a miniature high tech camera was hidden, before he looked back at her. "Lassie, in Polish, the name Andrzej means Andrew and Aurel...Aurel means Golden."

*elle seler'...little sister*

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